I thought I’d write up some quick thoughts on a topic that can make or break your marketing goals for the month, quarter, year, etc: Product launches.
A product launch is the absolute best ammo a marketing team could have when it comes to planning campaigns, forecasting, and helping the company reach its revenue goals. But in my opinion, WAY too many marketing teams make the mistake of thinking a blog post, an email, and a few social posts counts as a launch strategy.
A real product launch is a much more involved process that should guide a lot of your content and decisions for the months leading up to the launch. Below, I’ve put together a rough overview/brain dump of the playbook I actually use for my product launches.
It’s dumbed down a lot so as to not give away some company-specific plays & secrets that I don’t want shared, but it should be helpful for anyone working on a launch in marketing. Think of it as the product launch CliffNotes.
By the way, this is ripped straight from an internal presentation I did at my company, just with a few things stripped out. It’s literally the same (abbreviated) process I do for every big launch. Here’s the high-level overview:
Start with a Story Deck
The story deck is going to be the anchor for your product launch. This is basically the narrative that backs up your whole launch.
Here are the key elements:
- Tell the story – We’re not in sales mode yet. First, you need to establish why your product even exists in the first place. Tell a story that leads to a problem and solution, and remember that every great story has INTENTIONS & OBSTACLES.
- Pose a problem – Ok you’ve built up your story. Now what’s the conflict? What’s the roadblock that needs to be torn down?
- State the solution – Every problem has a solution. Conflict/Resolution is the basis of storytelling. Oh and spoiler: the solution is your product — the thing you’re launching.
- Examples – Back up the solution with examples – recipes, plays, customer stories, beta customers, quotes, etc. Give real life context to your product. This customer was struggling with the same problem from our story, and oh look, our solution fixed it.
- CTA – The call to action. You’ve made your case and told your story. Now what do we want the reader to do? Call sales? Get a free trial? It’s up to you to figure out the next action and a viable path to get them to take that action
Once you build out the story deck, don’t keep it to yourself. You need to get not only the marketing team excited about the launch, but the whole company. That way you have everyone on the same page and pulling in the same direction. Pitch the story deck at an all hands meeting and rally the troops behind the launch. Get sales and CS to hype it up in their regular email cadences. Turn it into the big event of the quarter.
Furthermore, once you have the deck built out, it becomes the default vision for the website, blogs, videos, etc. It makes the launch activities so much easier because the heavy lifting is done.
Name, Taglines, Examples, Headlines
The story deck is going to be the first part of your broader launch deck. After you’ve set the stage with a great narrative, now’s the time to unload the product specifics.
Start with the product name. This may seem obvious, but a lot of the time the internal codeword or shorthand names that internal people call the product, become the default name. You need to make it clear what the REAL NAME IS and start using it leading up to the launch.
Some names need a little creativity added. If your product is “New Reporting Dashboards,” you’re going to need to jazz that up a touch. Other names can and should be straightforward: “Drift Email” or “Conversational Email by Drift.” (Not sure if that’s what they actually call their email product, just riffing)
This is your 1-2 sentence explainer for what the product does and why you should care about it. How is this different from what has come before?
The easiest way to approach the tagline is to think about what the meta description for the landing page would be. i.e. “PRODUCT NAME is the easiest ways to ___ and ___ without __.”
You don’t need to flex your english degree here. Just say clearly, in simple terms, what your product does and what problem it solves.
Now you need to make your product real. 2-3 real-life examples make the product click in the minds of your buyers. Obviously you won’t really have use cases because the product hasn’t launched yet, but you can work in hypotheticals.
Think in plays/recipes – what can a specific type of buyer do with the product? If you cater to a lot of SME software businesses, offer a play specifically targeting that segment. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here! What are people already doing? Name those cases and how your product helps.
Always, always, always write the headlines FIRST. They inform the rest of your launch. The old Steve Jobs trick is to write the PR headlines you want, and watch them come to fruition. Why? Because people (bloggers, press, whoever) are lazy and will take your headlines and run with them. Also the headline is 99% of what gets people interested.
I usually write two headlines in the deck:
- The launch headline: i.e. “Introducing PRODUCT NAME: The ___ To ___ Whatever”
- The press headline: The headlines WE WANT that we’re handing out to everyone internal (marketing, sales, support) and external (blogs, PR, social, etc.) – they will spread the message.
After the story is written and the product has been laid out, now it’s time to figure out how we’re going to launch it to the world. I like to make a big dream list of launch activities and then whittle it down based on what’s possible with timing, resources, priorities, fit, budget, etc. These activities could be anything and really depend on your individual situation as a company.
Common launch tactics include:
- Launch video
- Landing page
- Blog post
- Support & Training
- Events, etc.
There’s no wrong answer here. It just has to make sense for you and your market.
Once the full deck is built out, now you need to make sure you have a plan for the launch. This is where your product marketing manager is going to be huge. The PMM is going to be the quarterback on everything launch-related. They will lead the plan/checklist on the Wiki or whatever internal comm tool you use. They won’t necessarily do all the creation for the launch, but they will ensure that the work gets done on time and serves the overall purpose of the launch.
Finally, in order to keep everyone updated on the progress of the launch, start a weekly sync with product + marketing in the months leading up to the go-live date. We’ve even started to make this more cross-functional at my company if the launch touches everyone – i.e. invite support, CS, sales, etc. or send them weekly video/update so they are in the loop. It takes a village to pull off a successful product launch and you want to have clear communication across the board.
If you’re a DGMG U member, you can get the full product launch deck here. If not, you can sign up to become a member and get access to this and 70+ other marketing decks and videos by registering on this page.
And if you want more of my marketing rants, sign up for my newsletter. Subscription link is embedded on my homepage here. Just enter your email and you’re good to go.
Have a good one.